80s Toys

Posted in games, Pop Culture on October 5th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

All that talk of California Raisins on my blog the other day got me to thinking about many of the toys I used to play with when I was a kid growing up in the 80’s.  I was a big fan of Fisher Price’s Little People back then, and I generally liked playsets of any kind.  The internet is a cool thing for many reasons, and it’s fun for stirring up nostalgia now and then.  I remembered this set of wind-up skill games they had in the 80s that were really small.  After a few minutes of google searching, I found them:  T.H.I.N.G.S. by Milton Bradley (Totally Hilarious Incredibly Neat Games of Skill – who remembers these?) .  It’s funny how most of these little toys look like just your everyday junk from China when you’re an adult, but when I was a kid, I had the Sir-Ring-a-Lot game and wanted all the rest of the T.H.I.N.G.S.

I was also really into Nerfuls after sending away for one (visor guy) in exchange for cereal UPCs.  These were little 3-piece figures  – a body, a ball for the head, and a hat or hair.  Some came with vehicles and the coolest parts were the stackable Nerfuls houses.

Legos were also really cool (still are!), and I’m thinking of getting my 5-year-old some of her own sets for Christmas this year.

Added link to Weebles Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

Fun in South Bend Indiana

Posted in Kids on June 16th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Of all the places to find fun, who would have thought that middle of nowhere, IN would be such a sight?  Every summer, we meet my mom there about 4 times to swap the kids.  She’ll take them for a week, twice a summer, so because South Bend just happens to be about as close to halfway for each of us to drive, that is where we meet.  We used to meet at a Wendy’s just off the expressway, but our horizons have broadened, and my husband and I have been venturing off the beaten path to discover new things to see and do in the area.  We found a good restaurant called Eleni’s with amazing gyros and saganaki, two of our favorite dishes.  We also found an authentic Greek restaurant called Elia’s right down the street, but oddly enough, they are almost never open.  They have more exotic Greek food like stuffed grape leaves, moussaka, and baklava, YUM!  Their food is excellent, though we’ve only been able to eat there once because of their strange hours and seemingly constant family vacations.  After eating and getting the kids back from my mom, we headed to the Potawatomi Zoo.  The zoo is a really cool size, perfect for our family of 3 small children and a now VERY pregnant woman.  Not much walking to do at all, yet it has a good amount of animals, native and exotic, all types and sizes from lions, tigers, and bears, to monkeys, bison, alligators, parrots, and red pandas.  I wil have to mention that the Potawatomi Zoo did not seem very well-kept.  A gardener in that place could have done wonders as there were many overgrown weeds, trees, and shrubbery, some even blocking what could have been better views of the animals!  One tree was so untrimmed it was blocking a drinking fountain!  But as I said, it’s a very cute little zoo, and they reciprocate with our home zoo, the Toledo Zoo, so our admission price was free and they don’t charge for parking.  I was surprised to see that the zoo wasn’t very crowded seeing as how it was a Saturday in June under 90°…  That zoo could really use a Jack Hanna to fix it up and get the publicity rolling – I see a lot of potential for it, but it does need some work.

After the zoo, we had kids begging for ‘one more fun thing’ (remember, they had been used to the fun of Grandma’s for just short of a week!), my husband whips out Mr. GPS, and apparently he has a phone book feature on him, so from your car, you can find gas stations, restaurants, and most importantly, fun places and attractions to visit!

So KUDOS belong to Mr. GPS this time!  Instead of getting us lost and chuckling at us electronically, he led us right to this strip mall that was like a step back in time, it was really strange.  It looked like it was right out of 1983.  I don’t know how to explain it – we should have taken pictures.  It would have been a great place to film a movie set in the early ’80’s, took me right back to my childhood.  Anyway, in this strip mall was a place called Mega Play.  From the outside, it looked closed down – they really need to get themselves a big bright ‘open’ sign.  But once inside, it was a huge space where they had tons of video games, pinball machines, indoor minigolf, bouncy castles and tunnels for the kids, lots of ride-ons for toddlers, and right out of 1983 – a ball pit!  The ball pit had a pyramid in the middle of it that the kids climb up with ropes and once they got the hang of it, they had a ball – cheesy pun intended.  That pyramid gave me a flashback of playing on the same thing when I was little.  I think they used to have them in KMarts, and my husband agreed.  It was neat to see vintage video games and pinball machines also.  The arcade ATARI games they had in one bouncy castle area were free to play – they had Kangaroo, Pole Position, Asteroids, and some shooting game I hadn’t heard of.  I walked over to the pinball machine area because days earlier, we visited this cool pinball shop in a suburb of Toledo.  The guy started it as a hobby, but it grew into a store, and he had all kinds of pinball machines, new and mostly vintage.  He had titles on display like Demolition Man, Star Wars, The Shadow, and Hercules (an older game – it was HUGE!).  He even had this Looney Tunes racing game (not pinball) that was really vintage and one-of-a-kind…  it was cool to see.  I wonder if the pinball guy outside of Toledo is familiar with Mega Play?  But anyway, back to Mega Play…  it was a huge, wide-open strip mall space that had tons of games, ride-ons, and bouncy castles packed into it – lots of fun there, but still spacey so you didn’t feel closed it.  It was the exact concept my husband and I had in mind for our own business of the same type we started a few years ago.  We ended up having to sell the business because it was too labor intensive for the time and staff we had however.  Too bad Mega Play is all the way in South Bend, or we could challenge our putt-putt-ing friends to the mini-golf course 🙂

After Mega Play, it was time to find something to eat, and before we knew it, we were out of South Bend and into the country.  The kids started getting crazier and crazier, and we vowed to stop at the very next restaurant we found before someone passed out or went insane – and some of us were close to either condition!  So, we stopped at a restaurant called Dakota’s in Elkhart IN, and I highly recommend it if you’re ever out that way.  They had the best cornbread, and their steak and cheese sandwich was simply AWESOME!  They also have barbecue items, and they happened to have karaoke the night we went…  it wasn’t too intrusive though.  They were in another room and we didn’t even know it was karaoke at first until the audience began applauding.  The DJ hosting the karaoke was singing a few songs also, and he was pretty good, so he actually sounded like a recording with a live quality.  I don’t how often they have karaoke there, but their food is great, prices reasonable, nice atmosphere, and the staff is amazingly friendly.  Keep in mind I say this coming from a super-friendly town myself, so we’re used to the usual chit-chat when we go out to eat –  but people in Elkhart were exceptionally friendly.

Overall, not a bad place to spend a day – fun and very inexpensive to boot.  Too bad with gas prices the way they are we can’t consider South Bend for a normal day trip for our family – there is plenty to do!  Maybe we’ll wander around some more the next time we meet Grandma there in July…